They'll also leave with sharpened negotiational skills, cultural sensitivity, and a peek at the inside of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb's locker.
Lehigh's third annual Pennsylvania Governor's School for Global Entrepreneurship is offering outstanding Pennsylvania and international high school students much more inside information than they bargained for, and the students are loving every minute of it.
During their five-week stay in Bethlehem, ending this week, the 50 Governor's School students are getting an intriguing blend of informative classes, time spent at the local businesses they're advising, and trips that combine entertainment with education. These trips have included a Reading Phillies game, tours of the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia and the New York Stock exchange in New York City, and a visit to the Eagles’ new training facility in Philadelphia.
Lehigh's program is the only one of the state’s eight Governor’s Schools that includes students from abroad, offering opportunities for new cultural experiences. After all, what’s more American than baseball?
Whitney Hannivig-Jones, a senior from Henley Brook High School in Western Australia, particularly enjoyed watching the Reading Phillies game. "I've never been outside of Australia, so I'd never seen a baseball game before. It was cool," she says.
Soaring with Eagles
At the Eagles Training Facility/NovaCare Complex, the students met with marketing director Leonard Bonacci. "It was one of the most important hours of my life. Bonacci talked about how he was kicked out of college, but he decided to go back and turn his life around--it was really inspiring," says Lilly Deng, a junior from Perkiomen Valley High School in Collegeville, Pa.
"It was great to see a 'normal' day in professional sports," says Greg Blair, a senior from Malvern High School in Malvern, Pa. "Usually when you think of business, you think of companies or corporations—not something you watch on TV every Sunday. It made it more personal."
But it wasn’t all business. The group enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of the Eagles weight room, cafeteria, and locker room. "The locker room was enormous, and one player had a picture of J. Lo on his locker, and another had a giant shower loofa—it was neat to see," says Serena Stein, a junior from Parkland High School in Allentown, Pa.
"The lockers were 7 or 8 feet tall—everything in the facility, including the chairs, were huge," recalls Marc Kelechava of Allentown Central Catholic High School. "And there were McNabb's and A.J. Feeley's clothes, shoes, and memorabilia sitting right in front of us—it was really exciting."
A global perspective
Of course, it’s not all fun and games, either. Students from Pennsylvania and abroad are getting hands-on experience cooperating and bonding with students from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
"I'm seeing perceptions of America from international students," says Kelechava, who began to become interested in a career in global business as a result of his first few weeks at Governor's School. "A lot of Americans think people from other countries are jealous of us, but this just isn't true. They're glad they live in their countries."
Kelechava's most lasting memory of the Governor's School will be an impromptu gathering in the residence hall lounge. "Students from Peru, Argentina, and Mexico all played guitar and sang songs for us from their countries," he recalls.
In addition to the trips and the time spent with each other, the students are getting a kick out of the work they're doing with their respective companies. Each student has been assigned to one of 10 organizations, including Lehigh Valley Hospital, Just Born, Michael Dunn Company, Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra, and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. They research the company, review issues and problems, and develop possible solutions.
Clarke Cohen, a senior from Bradford High School in Bradford, Pa., works for Just Born in Easton. "It's great--we get free candy and we get to choose the company's next candy product," he says. The students spend Mondays at their company, talking to the employees and CEOs and offering recommendations.
And the classes at the Governor's School are a hit, too. "In the entrepreneurial exchange class, we get to meet a lot of really interesting and distinguished business people in the area, as well as people who have started business ventures on a global scale," Stein says. "It's great to hear their stories, mistakes and how they overcame them, and their advice for us."
Blair says he has enjoyed the "Win-Win Negotiating" class the best so far. "It offers some extremely useful tips, not only on how to make a business deal, but also how to best behave in family arguments and buy a used car—life skills," he says. "
Although the Governor's School students have the common passion of entrepreneurship running through their veins, they're shooting for very different stars. Hannivig-Jones isn't sure where exactly she'd like to end up, but she's sure she wants to be a lawyer in the United States.
Stein wants to do something that combines business and the environment. Cohen, who at one point wanted to go into emergency medicine, is now interested in doing marketing or PR for a publishing company.
One thing's for sure: The first chapters of many future success stories are being written during these five fascinating weeks at Lehigh this summer.